I seem to spend my life writing about fraudsters. Maxwell, Nadir...oh, I could bore you for weeks, and probably will. But, undeniably, fraud has a long shelf life, as Deloitte's John Connolly has just discovered to his great irritation.
A couple of weeks ago, the Independent chose to dredge up Connolly’s association with the Barlow Clowes scandal, that great blockbuster from the eighties. Deloitte is the ultimate auditor of Parmalat; Connolly runs the firm in the UK. Add some outraged quotes from an amenable politician and, hey presto! It’s easy, this journalism lark.
But hang on. If Connolly was such a liability, would the partners really have voted him to the top UK job? There were other people to choose from. Taking the counter-argument to the extreme, Connolly is to be applauded for clawing his way to the top against all odds. Lesser men would have crumpled.
Oh, I can see a year of free Deloitte lunches coming my way. But it’s a fair point. If anything, you’d expect Deloitte, under Connolly, to be even more cautious in its audit work. But that might be expecting too much.
Undoubtedly, Barlow Clowes was one of the nastiest frauds perpetrated in the UK. The victims were pensioners who thought they were investing in ‘safe’ gilts. Many of them had died by the time the government agreed compensation.
Connolly’s client, Peter Clowes, spent investors’ money on four jets, two boats, a farm in the Peak District and a chateau in France. So much for off-balance sheet financing.
It was later joked that the only gilt-edged assets in the empire were the gold-plated taps on Clowes’ luxury yacht, Boukephalas. Now there’s a name.